On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire in an arson attack. A communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested at the scene and blamed for the attack, ultimately being executed, and the attack was used as a pretext to outlaw opposition groups such as the Communist Party of Germany, however there is evidence that the Nazis may have been involved. At the Nuremberg Trials, Rudolf Diels and Franz Halder claimed that Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring directed an SA unit led by Gruppenführer Karl Ernst to set a larger fire in the Reichstag while van der Lubbe was manipulated into setting a smaller fire in order to make the Communist Party of Germany a scapegoat.
Murder of Albrecht Höhler
On 20 September 1933, Albrecht Höhler, a Communist activist and pimp responsible for the murder of SA member Horst Wessel, was removed from his cell by three SA members under the orders of Karl Ernst on the pretext of a Gestapo prison transfer. Near Potsdamer Platz, several other vehicles joined the van carrying Höhler, and drove with it until they were 12km from Frankfurt, at which point they all stopped and Höhler was ordered to get out. A group of eight men lead by Gruppenführer Ernst and Rudolf Diels then lead Höhler into a nearby forest, where Ernst announced that he was condemning Höhler to death for the murder of Horst Wessel. All eight then shot Höhler, with Ernst himself delivering the killing shot.
Night of the Long Knives
During the purge of political opponents known as the Night of the Long Knives, Ernst organized the arrest of SA leader Ernst Röhm, who was executed in his cell by Theodor Eicke and Michael Lippert soon after. However, Ernst, as an SA member, was soon himself arrested by a Schutzstaffel unit lead by Kurt Gildisch and taken to Berlin, where he was shot by a firing squad in the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, alongside thirteen other victims of the Night of the Long Knives.